On June 7, the Georgian Foreign Ministry responded to the statement of its Russian counterpart on cargo transit through Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, saying Moscow’s position “is a clear attempt” to avoid the implementation of the 2011 Swiss-mediated agreement between Tbilisi and Moscow on trade monitoring between the two countries, including the cargo passing through Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on June 6 that it welcomes “the constructive and responsible position” of new South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov that Tskhinvali will have “no problems” with allowing international cargo transit through the region, and added that it hoped Tbilisi would demonstrate “an equally constructive spirit.”
In response to the statement, the Georgian MFA accused Moscow of “deliberately inhibiting the process” and stressed that “the aim of the agreement is monitoring of trade between Georgia and Russia.”
“The Russian side tries to present the occupied Tskhinvali Region as a party to the agreement, which obviously contradicts to the principles and the purpose of this agreement. Such interpretation of the agreement signed between the two countries in 2011 is categorically unacceptable for Georgia and this was clear to Moscow from the very beginning,” the MFA noted.
It then added that following the agreement signature, “important steps” were taken to implement it with the support of Switzerland, including the selection of a neutral company to administer customs monitoring, as well as a number of technical steps. As a result, the MFA added, “Georgia completed all preparatory procedures for signing the contract with a neutral company and for launching the agreement implementation.”
The Georgian MFA called on Russia to “review its unconstructive position and start unconditional implementation of its international commitments.” It also urged the member states of the World Trade Organization to give adequate assessment to Russia’s “destructive steps” and “prevent politicization of the agreement.”
Georgia agreed to give its go-ahead to Russia’s WTO membership only after Tbilisi and Moscow signed a Swiss-mediated agreement in November, 2011, envisaging the deployment of sophisticated systems for tracking and auditing of cargo passing through Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to the agreement, “neutral private company” will carry out monitoring of cargo movement through three “trade corridors” two of which run through Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the third one on the Zemo Larsi-Kazbegi border crossing point on the undisputed section of Georgia-Russia border.
Monitoring should be carried out, among other means, also through the presence of company representatives at entry/exit points of these corridors, meaning that they will be present outside of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.